Editor’s note: This article was originally published on 1 November, ahead of the first T20I between India and Bangladesh. The article is being updated on 3 November, after it was confirmed that Shivam Dube will make his debut for India.
India’s upcoming T20 International series against Bangladesh sees Shivam Dube play his first match for the senior team. With a seam-bowling allrounder slot available in the XI, the Mumbaikar had been included in the squad as a bowling all-rounder, with chief selector MSK Prasad offering some high praise for the 26-year-old.
“He bats aggressively, his performance for India A series in the West Indies and also against South Africa in the one-dayers was phenomenal. Shivam has come up by leaps and bounds and we are convinced,” Prasad had said while announcing the squad.
It’s hard to argue with the selection committee’s assessment of Dube’s potential. The tall left-handed batsman and right-arm medium-pace bowler has been on an impressive run over the past few months.
After a forgettable first outing in the Indian Premier League earlier this year, where, despite fetching a whopping Rs 5 crore from the Royal Challengers Bangalore, he scored just 40 runs in four games and went wicket-less in the ten balls he bowled, the all-rounder has put in a string of standout performances.
He was the player of the series after the four-day games for India A in the West Indies, he then played a couple of match-winning knocks against South Africa A at home, before hitting a blazing century against eventual champions Karnataka in the recently-concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Shivam Dube's career statistics
All these performances could still seem like they aren’t enough, especially when one considers that cricketers in India toil away for years without getting much recognition, but what sets Dube apart is his ability to hit big. With Hardik Pandya nursing an injury, the selectors have identified Shivam as someone who could play game-changing knocks for India lower down the order.
While Dube’s ascent to the top does seem rapid, what makes his journey even more intriguing is the fact that he had given up on cricket entirely from the age of 13 to 17.
The start and then the setback
Shivam was born and raised in Mumbai, backed strongly by his father’s ambition to make him a sportsperson. Rajesh Dube was a wrestler in his youth but the passion he had for cricket, along with the potential he saw in Shivam when he was as young as five, convinced him to devote his life to training his son.
There was a turf pitch that was prepared behind their house and the father-son duo would practice for hours. Rajesh would give hundreds of throwdowns to his son on a daily basis and make him work on his fitness separately. Dube soon became a quality all-rounder and put in some solid performances with both bat and ball in school cricket. But a call-up to the Mumbai Under-15 team eluded him.
What happened next with Dube is a rare occurrence in a sportsperson’s life. For four years, from the age of 13 to 17, he gave up on cricket entirely. There aren’t many international players going around who stopped playing the game for so many years at such a crucial stage. But Shivam was faced with unavoidable circumstances.
“I was in depression at that time,” said Shivam’s father, Rajesh. “I owed a huge debt related to my work and used to cry all day, every day. My family got ruined and Shivam’s cricket stopped completely.”
Shivam added: “I honestly didn’t understand what was happening around me. I missed the game but all I could really think of was dad and that I needed to be around him.”
By the time Dube turned 17, his family was back on its feet. There was one problem, though – his weight had ballooned to 110 kgs.
Under his father’s guidance, Dube began training again and worked hard on his fitness. The seasons didn’t matter, Shivam would run and exercise for hours on end. And within a year, he went from 110 kgs to 75 kgs.
Apart from the exercise regime, Dube also started working on his game. The practice pitch behind their house was prepared once again and he also joined an academy. However, to make it as a cricketer in a highly-competitive city like Mumbai, especially if you’re starting from scratch at 17, is an incredibly difficult task. The father-son duo realised that what they were doing wasn’t enough.
“I did a calculation,” said Rajesh. “If my son went to the coaching centre four times a week and got batting for just 15 minutes each time, this meant he was batting for just an hour in an entire week. That’s nothing! He needed much more, so I made him bat for eight hours on our own pitch on the other three days of the week. So the practice he got at coaching classes in two months, I was giving him that in three days.”
Still, Dube didn’t get his first Mumbai cap until his last year in Under-23 cricket. Since his return to the game, he had established himself in local circles as a hard-hitting batsman and a reliable medium-pace bowler. After making his Under-23 debut for Mumbai and performing well in club cricket and in the Times Shield, he finally got to make his senior team debut with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2016. Soon after, he was given a chance in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and he scored a century in his very first game.
Consistent performances in 50-over and 20-over cricket earned him a call-up for the Ranji Trophy when he was 24 years old. He got a five-wicket haul in his debut game and finished the season with 23 wickets and 632 runs to his name.
Dube then became a regular for the senior Mumbai team and had finally made it as a professional cricketer. But this was just the start of a phenomenal rise to the top.
The day before the auction for IPL 2019, Mumbai were playing Baroda in the Ranji Trophy. They had got a first-innings lead and the match was headed towards a draw. But the most significant moment of the match was yet to come. It was the final day of the game and Dube was batting on 45.
“Hardik Pandya, who was playing for Baroda, had told me the previous night that he was confident I would land an IPL contract. Even at the tea interval that day, Shreyas Iyer came up to me and told me to make a statement by going after the bowlers. The result of the match was done and dusted and we had nothing to lose,” said Dube.
The left-hander ended up smashing five sixes in an over to grab headlines the following day. He made just the right move at the right time and it fetched him a mega contract with RCB.
“I was watching the auction at home with my family and friends. We were jumping with joy and couldn’t believe how my price just kept increasing,” said Dube.
His debut season in the IPL didn’t go as per plan, though, with many questioning the huge price tag that was put on him. “I was upset for a while, wondered where I’d lacked in my preparation,” said Dube. “But I soon realised that ups and downs are part and parcel of a sportspersons life and moved on. Even Gary Kirsten and Ashish Nehra, our coaches at RCB, gave me a lot of encouragement.”
Dube did manage to put the disappointment of the IPL behind him and performed remarkably well for India A and in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. The reward was a call-up to the Indian team, a dream he and has his father had seen for a long time.
He left the game for four years, decided to grind it out once again, made his first class debut at 24, and within two years found a spot in the Indian team. Dube’s is a journey one definitely doesn’t come across very often.
“I couldn’t believe for a long time that I’d gotten selected for India, but it settled in eventually,” he said. “People keep telling me that it’s a huge deal and I agree, but for me getting to play cricket and working hard is still the most important.”